Directed by Allan Cubbit
Currently streaming via Netflix
Hair sniffing, nail painting, and other post-murder rituals make for a nice nightcap for Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), grief counselor, loving husband, father of two, and calculated killer. In charge of investigating Spector's murders is Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), a kick-ass feminist who's sick of everyone's condescending shit and not afraid to let them know it. This atmospheric British crime drama approaches the all-too-relatable struggle of trying to balance home and work life, with a cruel twist, and pairs it with a cat-and-mouse crime procedural, though one in which it is increasingly hard to figure out who is the cat and who is the mouse.
Although we are not encouraged to empathize with Spector, a bearded man-child who always looks like the ice cream just fell out of his cone, we're not cajoled to be completely horrified by his actions either. Spector engages in some creepy and unsettling acts, but never enough to completely lose the viewer's interest or care for him. It's insinuated that Spector jacks off to the thrill of murdering women, probably while sniffing locks of their hair, yet the audience is never given a glimpse of him in action. Likewise, it's implied that Spector has a loving relationship with his daughter, yet viewers never get to see them play a board game or engage in a tickle fight. Both sides of his personality are equally mysterious. Meanwhile, we experience his anxiety and fear as Det. Gibson is hot on his trail, and we welcome her contempt and disgust as she sits with his victims' families. It's as if we should not be so disgusted that we are hoping Det. Gibson annihilates Spector, but not so empathetic that we hope he gets away with his crimes either.
Writer and director Allan Cubbit has you walking a tightrope of allegiances and questioning what it means to get so engrossed in a dark show about murder like "The Fall." The show further implicates the viewer by playing up actor Jamie Dornan's handsome qualities with multiple, nearly identical scenes of shirtless Spector working out while plotting the murders of innocent people and dealing with his desire for intimacy. After all, as our girl Det. Stella Gibson observes, what's more intimate than taking a human life? If you can't get enough of Dornan's sinister glare and disturbing stash of torture devices, check him out in "50 Shades of Grey," out next week.